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Caps won’t call Game 2 a must-win, but they will hint at it strongly

Caps won’t call Game 2 a must-win, but they will hint at it strongly

Game 2 is not a must-win game for the Washington Capitals. If they lose, the season isn’t over. They still get a Game 3 regardless of Saturday’s outcome. They even are still guaranteed at least a Game 4.

“It’s 1-0, it’s not 3-0,” Justin Williams said when asked about the team’s stress level. “We’re fine.”

“Stress level?” Alex Ovechkin said. “Everything’s fine. I don’t know, it’s not stress.”

RELATED: Trotz talks Kuznetsov growing into top player role

So it is not a stressed or desperate Caps team that will take the ice on Saturday. Washington will not be a team fighting for their playoff lives. Barry Trotz and Co. have a different mindset.

“There's only really one must game in the playoffs is when you've got three losses,” Barry Trotz said after Saturday’s morning skate. “There's only one must game. For us it's about being better. Tonight we're going to be better. We are going to be better. So are they though. It's the great thing about playoffs. You get to feel each other out. They're going to be better, we're going to be better.”

No, you will not see a panicked Caps team frantically fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. Instead, you will see a confident team looking to even up their series at 1 by being the better team.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t understand what’s at stake. They're not blind. Washington cannot afford to lose both games at home if they have any real hope of winning the series.

“Obviously it's an important game,” Ovechkin said. “Obviously we know we can't give them 2-0 lead."

“When you go into the playoffs and you're playing a championship-caliber team, you've got to go and be the better team plain and simple,” Trotz said. “They have the DNA, they've done it, they've put the Cup over their head. They've done all those things. We have to be the better team. Starting tonight, we have to be the better team.”

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals vs. Penguins Game 2 how to watch

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Capitals' first-round pick Connor McMichael knows patience is key in his path to the NHL

Capitals' first-round pick Connor McMichael knows patience is key in his path to the NHL

Connor McMichael is the first Washington Capitals' prospect featured in NBC Sports Washington's I Am The Prospect series. Click here to check out more profiles from I am The Prospect.

Connor McMichael looks forward to the day when he puts on a red sweater for the Capitals in his NHL debut.

"It’s something special coming to Washington and hopefully be the next player who comes out here as one of the legends.” McMichael said.

But for now, the Capitals' 2019 first-round pick will continue to develop his skills under former Caps head coach Dale Hunter in the Ontario Hockey League for the London Knights. Hunter's brother Mark is also a part of the Knights as the general manager.

“We’re excited that Dale’s gonna have him for another year or two," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "That’s really gonna help his development."

McMichael has been a standout player for the Knights, leading the team in scoring and to a first-place finish in the Western Conference last season. Many NHL prospects do not get the immediate call-up to the big leagues, so having a former Capitals great play a big role in McMichael's development is a big plus.

“He’s very well-coached," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said. "He’s played in kind of a bigger stage in terms of the number of people who come to watch London play. We like that fact that he’s already dealt with some of that pressure and he’s succeeded."

The 19-year-old from Ajax, Ontario, is patient, knowing further development of his skills is a necessity to succeeding in the NHL.

"Dale’s been huge for my development and so has Mark so I’m thankful to have them," McMichael said.

What attracted the Capitals' top brass to McMichael was his ability to play both ends of the ice, a 200-foot player.

“He’s got a knack for scoring goals around the net," MacLellan said. "He’s got a little extra sense or intelligence, hockey intelligence that a lot of players don’t have.”

For McMichael, patience is key, and a virtue that will pay off for both him and the Capitals in the long-run.


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The NHLPA won’t reopen the CBA, what does this mean for the 2022 Olympics?

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The NHLPA won’t reopen the CBA, what does this mean for the 2022 Olympics?

The NHL Players’ Association elected Monday not to exercise its right to reopen the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL. The deadline for the NHLPA’s decision was Sept. 15, but, as that date fell on a Sunday, an exception allowed for the deadline to be extended to Monday, the next business day.

“While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the League that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said via a statement. “We have been having discussions with the League about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue.”

The NHL also had the option of reopening the CBA, but like the NHLPA elected to keep the current CBA in place. The league’s deadline was Sept. 1.

What this means is the current CBA will remain in place until Sept. 15, 2022 ensuring an additional three years of labor peace. That is significant news for a league that has experienced two work stoppages in the last 15 years.

That’s the good news. The potential bad news is what this could mean for Olympic participation.

The next winter Olympic Games will be held in Beijing in 2022 months before the current CBA will officially expire. Olympic participation is not guaranteed under the current CBA and the players were not allowed to participate in the PyeongChang games in 2018.

Every issue the league had with PyeongChang in terms of having to pause the regular season to participate and the time difference restricting viewership and interest will still be present in the 2022 games.

You have to wonder how that may impact the future of Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin takes Olympic participation very seriously and 2022 will likely be the last time for him to represent his native Russia in the Olympics and compete at a high level. If there is no sense that the NHL will allow its players to participate, does that affect Ovechkin’s future plans when his current contract expires in 2021?

Having said that, the league has made a concerted effort of growing interest in China. Recent years have seen preseason games played there and Ovechkin took a tour through China during the offseason as an NHL ambassador. It seems likely the NHL would be much more interested in participating in Beijing than they would have been in PyeongChang.

To reopen the CBA for the Olympics and its other concerns, however, would have been too much of a gamble. The league has shown its willingness to miss games in order to get a favorable CBA in the past and there is no reason to think that option would not be on the table in 2020.

The NHLPA’s decision on Monday ensures we will see hockey through the 2021-22 season and that’s good for everyone.

“We are pleased with the NHL Players' Association's decision not to reopen the Collective Bargaining Agreement," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with the NHLPA for the benefit of all stakeholders, especially our fans."